How To Sing Jim Croce Greatest Hits
Since I was a kid, big Jim was my hero. As I’ve grown into a man and now understand the hidden meaning behind many of his incredible songs and can associate with many of the characters that he crafted them with, I’ve also grown to understand and appreciate the timeless quality of his voice and his sheer prowess he possessed as a singer. Now, we all see singers like Aretha Franklin and John Fogerty as having the ‘holy grail’ of voices when it comes to soul or rock, but learning how to sing Jim Croce songs takes a special kind of ability and dedication – if you want to learn how to sing Jim Croce greatest hits like Operator and Lover’s Cross, then this tutorial is going to blow your mind and hopefully inspire you to pick up your guitar and sing along to your favourite Jim Croce songs.
One of the most amazing qualities of Jim Croce’s voice is that he never strained, not once. Even for a big guy with a BIG voice, Jim could hit the highest of notes with ease and harmonise with the absolute best, there is not one single Jim Croce song where you hear big Jim pushing or struggling to hit a note – this is care of his balanced middle voice coordination. Jim didn’t sing in chest voice, and he didn’t sing in head voice, he sang with a balance of both registers which is known as middle voice or simply ‘mix’ to those in the business.
Jim’s assertive but pleasant character is one of the main reasons I first started learning how to sing myself. As a low baritone with a deep voice, I often struggled to sing the way Jim sang, that ease of range and pleasant buzz and resonance – until I started to understand how the registers functioned and how it was possible to balance between chest and head in a pleasant but powerful tone that connected and bridged both of your main registers in a fluid way. Jim was a master of the middle voice.
Consonants are key
Along with the fact that Jim Croce sang without strain, he also managed to pronounce his words clearly and precisely without losing his resonant buzz. Many singers experience issues with consonant sounds – and many courses and vocal programs overlook the delicate art of singing consonants in a clear and concise way without strain. When it comes to singing, your vowels are very different to speech, and this also relates to your consonant sounds too. When you speak a vowel, depending on your accent, you likely use the front part of your face as the articulator(s), the tip of the tongue, teeth, lips etc. In singing, you shape your vowels using the back of the tongue while allowing appropriate resonance space in the pharynx by changing the shape/width of your vocal tract (bear with me, it’s easier than you think). The same applies to your consonant sounds – have you ever thought about “how” you speak a plosive sound like “P” or “B”? Have you ever agonised about how you speak a resonant sound like “N” or “M”? Of course not – this is why you’re having issues when you sing, because singing and speaking are ultimately two separate processes of the same mechanism, just like walking and running are two separate processes of your legs and posture as a propulsion system. When you sing consonant sounds, it’s important that you take each consonant group, like plosives, sibilants, open resonants, closed resonants and glottal consonants and form a consistent and intentional way of singing them. This may mean that you ‘replace’ a W sound with an OO vowel, like “OO-ELL” instead of “WELL” and replace a Y with an EE vowel, like “EE-EAH” instead of “YEAH”.
Remember, your speaking voice and singing voice are ultimately two separate processes. Running isn’t just ‘fast walking’ in the same way that singing isn’t just ‘speaking at pitch’.
Resonance and buzz
Listen to your favourite Jim Croce song or any of the Jim Croce Greatest Hits like Time in A Bottle or Roller Derby Queen. Can you hear how there is minimal syllables in the way he is singing, almost as though every word and vocal line and word melds into the next, but is still articulated properly. This is due to dynamic resonance and the ‘buzz’ that singers sometimes call twang. I’m not talking about country twang or a southern drawl, I’m talking about narrowing the top of the epiglottis when you sing to accentuate your high/mid frequencies just like Jim Croce did. This is the pleasant but sharp buzz you hear in a Jim Croce song like Box #10 or Operator – vocal twang.
Learning to sing like Jim Croce takes time, perseverance and practice, but if you love big Jim the way I do, then the hard work is absolutely worth it. A great place to start is the free foundations short courses available here at BVS which will show you how to set up a rock-solid foundation like Jim Croce, and when you’re ready to take your voice up another notch with professional voice coaching you can book a Skype Session with me and we’ll start extending your range while building control and consistency in your voice EVERY time you sing.
If you have any questions about singing Jim Croce greatest hits, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.